Friday, November 16, 2018

Autumn Love
“A Weary Song to a Slow Sad Tune”

by Li Ch’ing-chao

trans. Kenneth Rexroth (renowned American poet)

Search. Search. Seek. Seek.
Cold. Cold. Clear. Clear.
Sorrow. Sorrow. Pain. Pain.
Hot flashes. Sudden chills.
Stabbing pains. Slow agonies.
I can find no peace.
I drink two cups, then three bowls,
Of clear wine until I can’t
Stand up against a gust of wind.
Wild geese fly over head.
They wrench my heart.
They were our friends in the old days.
Gold chrysanthemums litter
The ground, pile up, faded, dead.
This season I could not bear
To pick them. All alone,
Motionless at my window,
I watch the gathering shadows.
Fine rain sifts through the wu-t’ung trees,
And drips, drop by drop, through the dusk.
What can I ever do now?
How can I drive off this word —

I  read today this poem in the small collection of "Complete Poems" by Ching-Chao Li. How beautifully the poet captures with evocative images the loneliness and hopelessness after a possible break up from her lover!

Li Ch’ing-chao (1084–c.1151) is universally considered to be China’s greatest woman poet. Her life was colorful and versatile: other than a great poet, she was a scholar of history and classics, a literary critic, an art collector, a specialist in bronze and stone inscriptions, a painter, a calligrapher, and a political commentator. Li is reputed to be the greatest writer of tz’u poetry, a lyric verse form written to the popular tunes of the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). Her tz’u poems are fill of lucid imagery, refined and highly suggestive.

Source: Complete Poems by Ching-Chao Li (Author), Kenneth Rexroth (Translator), Ling Chung (Translator)

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